NK cells can recognize and eliminate malignant cells thereby preventing both local tumor progression and metastatic spread. Besides by the direct interaction with their target cells, NK cell activity is influenced by the interplay with other hematopoietic cells influencing the activity of both involved cell types. Recently, we and others demonstrated that thrombocytopenia inhibits metastasis in mice, which is dependent on the presence of NK cells as shown by NK cell depletion experiments (

Jin et al.,
Nat Med
Nieswandt et al.,
Cancer Res
). These data suggest that thrombocytopenia indirectly inhibits tumor dissemination by allowing NK cells to exert their anti-tumor effector functions. However, yet nothing is known regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying platelet-NK cell interaction, especially in humans. Here we report that human platelets express high levels of MHC class I, and incubation of MHC class I-negative tumor cells with platelets induced formation of tumor cell-platelet aggregates resulting in tumor MHC class I “pseudoexpression” which can inhibit NK cell reactivity via KIR triggering. Furthermore, tumor cell-induced platelet aggregation, alike stimulation with classical platelet agonists such as thrombin or collagen, resulted in secretion of platelet-derived soluble factors (releasate) containing, among others, high levels of the immunoregulatory cytokine TGF-b. Presence of releasate in cocultures of NK cells and tumor target cells was found to mediate a substantial inhibition of NK cell cytotoxicity and IFN-g production. Of note, platelet releasate caused a marked downregulation of the activating immunoreceptor NKG2D expressed on NK cells, which was partially restored by a neutralizing TGF-b antibody. Confirming the functional relevance of this finding, neutralization of TGF-b in platelet releasate by the same antibody also partially restored both the impaired NK cell cytotoxicity and IFN-g production in cocultures with tumor cells. Taken together, our data demonstrate that platelets may substantially influence NK cell anti-tumor reactivity by various mechanisms including inhibition of NKG2D-mediated NK cell immunosurveillance. Further elucidation of platelet ability to confer expression of immunregulatory surface molecules to tumor cells and the various soluble factors carrying NK cell-modulatory activity may reveal novel targets to prevent tumor dissemination.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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